Are the Beatles the Greatest Rock Band?
I think that the answer to this maybe varied due to generational differences. Objectively, trying to describe how The Beatles impacted the world in mythic-like proportions to a person who had no exposure to them is difficult. It is difficult to convey just how important they were to revolutionizing rock music, culture, and men’s styles. Those born after they stopped being band, or know little about them, simply discount them.
To be fair, The Beatles are not the only band to change rock music, they were simply the first and the only ones to dominate an era- the 1960’s. Had the band not stormed across the globe during that era, there might not be long hair on men, or the Beatle cut (that so many men have even today), or there might not have been a Phil Collins or Eric Clapton and a host of other musicians that followed. You see, when The Beatles started their mania in 1963, guitar and drum sales soared. Every kid or teen suddenly wanted to play either, start a band, write their own songs, let their hair grow long. Not just in England, but across the USA. Many, as time turned into the 70’s, were members of bands who were influenced by the Beatle songs-their structure, their harmony, their perfect balance in personalities and musical influences. They saw how diverse The Beatles music was and their 1968 White LP showcases this. These bands sought to emulate them in some manner. Even today, you can identify a Beatle sound, just as you can hear a Beach Boy sound or a Led Zeppelin sound or a Frank Sinatra sound. The best artists have their own sound ID.
The Beatles were the perfect rock band, they had: four different personalities, each with different musical influences and their music, they always improved a cover song (which was always better than the original, listen to Money or Shout!), they were always creating material, they had four different distinct vocals for their music, they had a producer (George Martin) who added his own musical improvements to some songs, and the harmony between Lennon and McCartney was perfect when if occurred. That sound always improved the song.
Many might say the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin or Cream are rock’s best band ever. For those who are in the dark, the Beatles opened the door for the Stones. The Stones really only had one singer, their music was nearly always a blues cover song until their first major hit, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, in 1965. By then, the Beatles had conquered the world. They were never on the same playing level. The Stones even tried to cover a Beatle song, I Wanna Be Your Man, from Meet the Beatles LP. As for Led Zeppelin, their first LP, was years after the Beatles. There is no question they were revolutionary for their hard rock songs and amazing vocals and sizzling guitar. They, like the Beatles, created a new sound for rock to branch off to, which still inspire hard rock bands today. They had their own music ID. I am sure that when Beatlemania raced over England in 1963, its members donned the Beatle look and were among those buying guitars etc. The Beatles inspired another great rock band. As for Cream, another late sixties band, their guitarist, now very famous, was Eric Clapton (who also played on the Beatle White LP) has said the Beatles did inspire him to buy a guitar and start playing back in 1963. Although hard rock was not a Beatle style, ironically, their Helter Skelter on the White LP, was done with that Led Zeppelin sound with amazing guitar work. It proved the Beatles could and did do any musical style they chose to. BTW, the song is simply about going up and down a slide in a playground, not about Charle’s Mansion!
So, yes, the Beatles are the greatest rock band while they were active and for their influence that all rock musicians acknowledge. The sixties produced a few iconic bands that continue to influence today: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix . Today, when a teen hears a song and says, "That sounds like Green Day", they probably don't know that Green Day got that sound from The Beatles. That is what a legend is.